Hisoka learns that there are many different areas of Gensoukai corresponding to different countries and belief systems in the human world. The powerful shikigami, particularly the Four Gods, work for the Golden Emperor to preserve peace. Souryuu explains that shikigami will only serve someone they consider strong, so to gain one Hisoka must pass whatever trial it sets for him--be it a match of power or wits or will. Tsuzuki advises him not to force obedience upon a shikigami but to make friends with it.
Touda and Kijin analyze Hisoka's profile and determine that he's most compatible with earth and water elements, especially in the area of protection rather than attack powers, which they feel makes him a great complement to his partner. He might be able to get along with a protection-type air shikigami, but he is not to attempt to acquire a fire shikigami under any circumstances. Byakko acts as his guide and takes him out for a bit of training, dodging a couple of wormholes that have become more common. Byakko fears the wormholes are a sign that Gensoukai is crumbling. Hisoka confronts his first shikigami.
Back at the palace, Tsuzuki is dreading having Souryuu lecture him about his actions in Kyoto, when he tried to take his own life. Rikugou tells him that Souryuu is simply the kind of person who takes his frustration out on others. Hisoka returns, upset that his first shikigami is a low-level cactus named Riko. He doesn't want just anything, he wants a shikigami that will make him stronger. He tries the other shikigami on the list approved for him, but none satisfy his desire. Kijin pulls out the list of all shikigami available to him, regardless of compatibility rating. Hisoka's attention is caught by the one name that has been crossed out, Dragon King Kurikara, who is as strong as Souryuu but hates humans.
There have been four Great Wars in Gensoukai's history, one of which was the fight between water dragon Souryuu and fire dragon Kurikara. Souryuu only managed to defeat his opponent when the Golden Emperor lent him aid. Kurikara was imprisoned in the Fuyuu Desert and striken from the shikigami list. Tsuzuki warns Hisoka not to try to master the exiled dragon, which makes Hisoka feel misunderstood. At first he's certain that he only wants power to match his partner, but seeing Souryuu being paternal reminds him of how much he'd always wished he could get back at his father for how he'd been treated growing up, and that feeds into his stubbornness. Watching him, Tusuzki is saddened that he hasn't realized it's the strength of the master's heart that supports the shikigami.
Hisoka spills his feelings to Genbu and asks how to get to the Fuyuu Desert, but the old shikigami refuses on the grounds that the boy will be crushed and devoured. Kurikara is the one shikigami not even Tsuzuki could take on. Tatsumi and Watari see Rui for the first time and hear about the problem--according to the previous doctor she's been pregnant for two years. Watari accidentally lets it slip that they know about Nagare's dead son, but Tatsumi covers for him by saying they heard the servants talking. Nagare asserts that whatever Rui is carrying, it's not his child.
The maid for the shinigami admits that only a few of the staff know of Rui's condition because they don't want other relatives to find out. Nagare's older brother Iwao has carried a grudge since their father chose the younger son to inherit. He'll use any excuse to take over as head of the family, which is why Rui is hidden away from him. Watari isn't sure what to do, as he isn't a medical doctor much lest conversant with obstetrics. Tatsumi figures they should search the previous doctor's residence.
Touda is about to take it upon himself to guard Hisoka--only because he knows Tsuzuki cares for the boy--but others volunteer to go in his place. Hisoka understands he has no chance to defeat Kurikara, but he refuses to give up without even trying to meet the dragon. He doesn't want to spend the rest of his life being protected by others; he wants to do the protecting. Just as he sets out to search, however, he falls into a wormhole.
During the time of the last Great War, Touda had turned his powerful fire against both friend and foe, winding up sealed deep inside Tenkuu as punishment. Tsuzuki released him and allowed him to remain free, albeit with a power control mechanism attached. He has sworn eternal and absolute loyalty to the shinigami for that favor. Suzaku shows up to bicker with Touda and finally apologizes to Tsuzuki for ignoring his orders during the Kyoto mission. She loves him and can't bring herself to let him die, no matter how much he may long for it himself. He holds her and tells her it's all right now. However, she still holds it against Touda that he acted to kill his master, though he had been ordered to do so.
Hisoka winds up lost in the middle of a desert. (Tsuzuki's shikigami know he fell through a wormhole but haven't located him yet.) Hisoka dreams that he's confronted by a girl who claims she's supposed to be Hisoka and orders him to give the name back. He wakes up and searches for Riko, who had gotten separated from him in the accident. When night falls, he wonders why he feels so lonely--being alone hadn't bothered him so much before. He realizes that the other "Hisoka" in the dream was an illusion he had created as a child to keep him company. Now he yearns to be back where Tsuzuki is.
Tsuzuki is depressed over Hisoka's disappearance, so the shikigami do their best to cheer him up and insist it isn't his fault. Trapped in the desert, Kurikara laments that his dead sons' souls aren't allowed to return to their homeland to rest. He vows that one day he will break free and go back to Gensoukai. Finally Hisoka is awakene to find that Riko has rejoined him, with the help of a herd of talking camels. The lead camel reveals that they have indeed come to the Fuyuu desert. In addition, the entire desert is a prison surrounded by the kekkai created by Tsuzuki's shikigami, which makes it impossible to escape.
The camel takes Hisoka to Kurikara's fortress, but it warns him not to bite off more than he can chew. For every gain, there's an equal loss. Even if he were to win the dragon to his side, it may cost whatever is most valuable to him, and once that's gone it's too late to get it back. Hisoka forges ahead regardless. He meets up with a talking sword, Futsu no Mitama, which serves as Kurikara's right arm. It tells him to choose whether to retreat and survive...or continue forward and die.
End Volume 10
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